MovNat Lifestyle Habits

By John Sifferman

We asked our MovNat Team Instructors:

What daily habit have you adopted that’s helped you to get healthier, move better, or become more capable for the real world?

Stefano Tripney – MovNat Team Instructor

Ground Movement.

Thinking this question over was a bit like mining for gold. Separating one element out from the bedrock which, when left intact, serves as the foundation for all that is. Essentially, we’re asked to divorce one aspect out from the broad, all encompassing system which is Natural Movement, who’s value is best viewed and appreciated in it’s whole form. However, if I were to view it as extracting most overall value compared to invested time, the clear champion in my books is ground movement.

Viewed through the lens of early human development it is clear why and how this process leads to a grown and functional human. Conversely, you can begin to understand when this foundational stage is abandoned early or aborted altogether, how it leads to a host of imbalances, poor mobility, and loss of function. Interaction with gravity in a horizontal plane reestablishes loading forces that can be quite novel to the inexperienced and the challenges presented are often quite humbling.

Ground transitions from prone to supine, kneeling, and sitting variations are quick to be dismissed and often ignored or forgotten altogether but they alone contain the basis for everything we do. Baby didn’t emerge into the world on two feet, the process from ground based wriggles and rolls took time and for good reason. Our entire support structure, every tendon, ligament, bone, and muscle was laid out and cured during this most crucial period. Posture, stability, mobility, balance, patterning, brain and nervous system development; all optimized through trial and error mere inches from terra firma.

As complexity increases, various locomotive patterns emerge and crawling begins to take form. This is our foray into the exploration of our environments, driven by the natural inquisitiveness that is the hallmark of human endeavor. At this juncture, the benefits really start to take hold as we increase our abilities to problem solve, make predictions relating to cause and effect, and form a relationship with both spatial and temporal boundaries.

We are a contralateral animal and this pattern displays itself early in the crawling process and is demonstrated through an assortment of points of support; knees, feet, shoulders, hands, elbows, and hips. As the distance between these posted body parts increases so does the demand on the structures along the chain. Again, gravity imposes it’s will and the strength and stability requirements elicit a most favorable adaptation process from the tips of the fingers to the points of the toes and all parts in between.

The structural demands and resultant increase of stability and mobility has been the single most valuable outcome of my time revisiting the ground. It has fortified my climbing, supercharged my running, and expanded my aptitude in all lifting/carrying skills — both in capacity and range of motion. The ground has been my greatest ally and teacher, ruthless in it’s ability to detect and exploit my inefficiencies yet it’s gentle wisdom has guided me towards ever increasing ability, safety, and continuous exploration. – Stefano Tripney

Craig Rice – MovNat Team Instructor

Opportunistic training throughout the day.

Ready to train. Although, the jacket needs to come off to climb.

I used to approach training as a block of time during the day (usually an hour) when I could dress in cute workout clothes and get sweaty, it’s very common in modern fitness. I still grab any chance I can to get my lulu’s on and do an hour of training. The new habit that I’ve adopted is keeping my eyes open for the rest of the day. Now I’m always looking for chances to workout, train, practice, move, or whatever you want to call it.

For starters, I’ll walk or run places that I might have usually took motorized transport. In no time at all I increased the amount of physical activity that I do in the day and spread it out, which makes my recovery times better.

This is one way to find opportunistic training – take away modern conveniences. Don’t take elevators, buses, cars, etc. Even if you are going to buy some groceries, it’s a great chance to practice some carrying!

You can also keep your eyes peeled for opportunistic training. The nice thing about real world training such as MovNat is that you’re always in the correct environment to train. I’m always looking for things that I can balance on, vault over, climb on, you know, MovNat. It’s even more fun to do this when you’re not dressed for a workout. You start to learn not just how capable you are barefoot and in your MovNat shorts, but also how capable you are in a tie and dress shoes with no warm up – what better way to train for an emergency?

It’s important to stay safe if you want to start training this way. Keep in mind that you’re changing the context that you’ll be moving in. Make sure to start with something really easy and take baby steps to keep yourself (and your clothes) safe. There is a big difference between trying to hang from something and doing a max set of muscle ups. – Craig Rice

Kellen Milad – MovNat Team Instructor

For me, a long standing habit of moving first thing in the morning has made all the difference in turning my fitness into a lifestyle practice.  Everyday is different but the constant is that I spend my first 30-45 minutes engaged in mindfulness and movement.

I generally start with stillness. This is a chance for me to simply check-in and listen to my body. I find that as soon as I wake in the morning my mind immediately wants to jump into work. Stillness sets a tone for me to take calm and purposeful action.  The stillness practice takes about 15 minutes and takes the form of meditation, breath work, or standing postures – whatever I’m feeling that day. From this time, I get a better sense of what kind of movement I’ll practice.

The short movement practice comes next – either ground practice, standing practice, walking / running, or a short workout.  The type of practice depends on my energy levels, recovery status, weather / season, and plans for the day ahead. Ground practice is usually 3-4 movements that I cycle through 3-4 times. Standing practice consists of joint articulations, basic movement patterns, and single-leg balancing. During a walk / run, I get out in the neighborhood and always take a different route. A short workout would include some lifting, crawling, and various get ups.

For me, the biggest benefit of this habit is beginning the day with the space to connect with myself. My shower feels better, the first sips of coffee taste better, my work has a more focused energy, I feel in balance.  As someone who tends to get caught up on the grind, this habit helps me notice when it’s time to pause one project and move on to the next part of my day.​ – Kellen Milad

Abby Corriveau – MovNat Team Instructor

I make sure that I get on the ground every single day.  Some examples of ground movement that I do daily are actively tuning into my breath, ground flow, or working on my computer while switching up different seated positions. My hips, back, and mind always feel rejuvenated and full of vitality after spending a few minutes on the ground. There is a lot to gain from getting down on the ground. – Abby Corriveau

Danny Clark – MovNat Performance Director

In the initial stages of my MovNat journey, it was simply doing a few minutes of Ground Movement each day.  It just felt fantastic and in many ways this radical new way of moving and thinking about movement was the antidote to many physical problems that had accumulated. The practical significance of the positions and transitions always subtly reminded me that practicing wasn’t just about “mobility” but rather something bigger that I had lost in my life: freedom.

As my practice has evolved, my daily habit now has transformed into expressing my freedom through natural movement.  Every day I walk barefoot, jump on something, crawl under something, or vault over something I push back against the heavy inertia of  domestication. – Danny Clark

Jerome Rattoni – MovNat Team Instructor

Daily habit? It is at the same time very simple and has been life-changing for me.

This is to open my eyes, look around, check the environment around me and make use of it for my movement practice every time I have the opportunity.

I would even go beyond the “environment” and say that I look at every moment, every situation in life as an opportunity to improve myself, whether it is mentally or physically.

Before MovNat, as a soccer practitioner, I was naive enough to just follow the training regimen I was given: Running lots of miles during the summer pre-season, exercising only for my soccer skills, accepting that I would have poor mobility because “every soccer player is like that”, and many other false ideas.

With MovNat, I realized that getting fit, strong, and agile is fairly accessible if we simply respect who we are as humans first, who evolved through tough conditions which made us more resilient.

My playground park nearby not only became a place to watch my kids play on the swings, but also an immense source of natural movement for me to transform myself.

A bench became a balancing tool, a vaulting obstacle. The grass became a fantastic place to roll, jump, run, or work on my ground movement.

Basically, now, everywhere I go, I can’t stop checking around and thinking which movement I could perform on it. Just the simple concept of imagination (which disappears once we “grow-up”) is such a healthy habit as our brain is fired up by all those possibilities.

I’m a big advocate of Movement Snacks, which is placing as many “workouts” as I can during the day, even if this “workout” means going back from lunch to the office, and choosing a very narrow edge instead of the regular path, or dead-hanging from a bar in the subway. Looks of other people thinking it’s weird?

Well, I simply tell myself “one day, we will wear the T-shirt, “I did MovNat before it was cool!” :-)

Even the morning shower is the first “healthy snack”, as putting on the ice cold water makes it challenging but extremely rewarding, with lots of benefits from it (good spirit, overcoming adversity, strengthening the immune system, etc.).

So, in other words, as we become what we are, practicing constantly in relation to our environment with a young human’s imaginative mindset makes a big difference when it comes to aging gracefully and using our full human potential. – Jerome Rattoni

Bernd Reicheneder – MovNat Team Instructor

Evolutionary natural habits.

Habit is something we sometimes talk or think about, and it’s mostly about bad habits. We know them all – and all too good! So it’s not a big deal, if you’re in a good state of health and can compensate for them. You can try to get rid of them, but normally, if you don’t have a good enough reason, they come back quickly and vehemently. Actually, most of the day, we act automatically through habits. It would be terrible if not! So, the better the habits, the better the day!

In a practical, scientific sense, it is just the trilogy of: Cue – Routine – Reward – Cue – Routine – Reward…until you crave the reward. Then you have a problem. For example, one could argue that sugar is great, but sugar only takes. On the other hand, a hard workout is hard, yes, but it can be sweet as well and it gives you much more in the long run. Similarly, craving can be a healthy thing or an unhealthy one.

To figure this out, you have to build up a feeling for what’s going on inside of you. Can you listen to your body properly? Can you tell when a habit is good or bad? You have to learn to listen deeply into yourself!

A bad habit makes you weak and ill – your brain, your body, your life energy – and it can even affect all the people around you. On the other hand, a good habit can compensate for this. There are so many good habits, yes, but are they really good in general, good for you specifically? How do you really know?

I personally decided long ago to shift the balance in the right direction. I just tried to find out what is healthy for the movement part, the nutrition, the senses, the energy, nature and how I felt about it. It was always just a try and then a screening. To feel things out. Five years ago, shortly after I found MovNat I met Lee Saxby, at a barefoot running workshop. Those of you who have met him and saw his presentation will remember the load of quotations there. It was great! One of them hit me and coined my thinking of good habits to be healthier, move better, and become more capable for the real world:

“Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.” Theodosius Dobzhansky

So to keep it simple, but not simpler: MovNat gives me an understanding, and most importantly, a “feeling” to build up good and natural habits which are as close to evolution as possible nowadays. This brings so much more aspects of our naturalness with it, which makes it easy to outweigh the bad habits, modern life also inflicts on me. – Bernd Reicheneder

Matt Rutley – MovNat Team Instructor

I try to play as much as I can.  MovNat is based around honoring our design but that isn’t just a physical thing, it’s also about mindset.

All ancient cultures, without exception, played games. Men and women, young and old; all took part in various games and forms of play. Play was used by our ancestors as a way to explore and develop not only the physical and movement skills that they would need in daily life but also creativity, language, tactics, cooperation and social skills.

In modern times we tend to think of games as childish things. Fun movement is for kids, painful movement is for adults. If we aren’t trying to brutalize our bodies into “fitness” then many of us feel as though we aren’t training hard enough. Many people think that the harder and more painful something is, the more benefit it will be. After all, no pain, no gain, right?

Keeping things playful, to me, is the key to sustainability. If you’re having fun and enjoying movement, you’ll move more and you’ll be more likely to stick to it. Because play is progressive, you’ll move better, you’ll see setbacks as a challenge to overcome, you become more creative, you get better at problem solving, you increase your physical and mental engagement therefore your physical and mental well-being.

Play is as natural to us as breathing. Children will find games to play whether we teach them to or not. Adults want to play just as bad, but we do a better job convincing ourselves not to do it. – Matt Rutley


Ready to Begin Your Movement Journey?

If you’d like to learn more about natural movement fitness and the lifestyle behind it, consider attending the MovNat Level 1 Certification or a MovNat Workshop. We hold events all around the world.

Most people know that they should be more physically active. Some even recognize the incredible value in a system like MovNat. But they struggle with actually implementing natural movement into their daily lives.

That’s why we work closely with people from all walks of life to help them move better, get healthier and stronger, and discover their true potential with natural movement fitness.

It’s also why we work extensively with health and fitness professionals who understand the value of this new paradigm and are eager to start implementing it with their clients.

So, if you’re ready to take your movement practice to the next level, this is your chance. Please join our community and check out an event near you soon.

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